Football..the most played and watched sport in the world. The beautiful game has over 3.5 billion estimated fans across the globe. It has the power to bring people together, regardless of their age, race, gender, culture, or nationality. Billions all over the world flock to local stadiums to watch their favorite teams play every single day.
With such a massive global appeal, the opportunities to make money in football are huge. In the football economy, the money is flowing, and it’s flowing in big time. Each week, millions of dollars change hands between clubs and players, fans and ticket offices, sponsors and clubs. But is this massive flow of money ruining the sport?
Professional football lives up to the capitalist ideal, that if there is money to be made, someone will find a way to make it. Footballers are household names, known for their flamboyant lifestyles.
But it’s not just the men on the pitch enjoying their fat salaries and sponsorship deals.
The amount of money that moves in and out of any top football club is downright staggering. The money clubs earn from broadcast rights, merchandise, sponsorship, naming rights dwarfs the traditional income sources for football clubs – ticket sales and prize money. This allows clubs to splash unreal amounts in the bid to secure the most talented footballers on the planet.
When Neymar Jr transferred from Barcelona to Paris St. Germain (PSG) for an incredible £198 ($263) million…yes you read it right…$263 million..for one man!(or boy)..skin and bones..for the kind of money that could buy you 4 Boeing passenger jets! That’s more than double the previous record, set by Paul Pogba’s move from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016. Then, just a few weeks after Neymar’s transfer, Ousmane Dembélé became the second most expensive footballer in history when he transferred from Borussia Dortmund in Germany to Barcelona for £97 million. Ridiculous money started being thrown around for any young boy with ‘potential’, and absurd amounts are still being thrown around today.
To ride on the success of the sport and build profitable new markets, the Major League Soccer in the US and the Qatar Stars League have tried to boost the profile of football in the country by signing star players at the tail end of their careers. They include David Beckham, David Villa and Xavi. More recently, China has been the other rising force, with its Chinese Super League spending large sums of money to attract players from Europe and South America to play in China. This has helped football gain more popularity in Asia. Brazilian stars like Oscar(£60 million), Hulk(£46 million) and Ramirez(£26 million), are bringing in some style to Asian football. The weekly salaries that these players take home can be compared to what Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi make.
Before Neymar’s move to PSG, every football pundit stated that Manchester United had grossly overpaid for Pogba. Unbelievably, today it seems like a more than fair price. Not because Pogba has set the Premiere League on fire, he’s been pretty average (by his world class standards..I ain’t no Pog-hater) But after 3 underwhelming seasons with him and his agent constantly setting the tabloids on fire with his intentions to leave, he is still expected to fetch United close to (probably more than) the million they paid for him.
So why did PSG ruin things for everybody with this oil-stained world record purchase? It’s simple. Neymar had the clause, and PSG had the money. When Barcelona set the $263 million release clause, they never expected anyone to actually pay it. Because that’s bonkers, isn’t it? PSG’s ambitious project demands that the best in the world play in their shirt. And PSG’s lack of history as a club means no top player can say he dreamt of playing for them as a child (I mean no offence here). So they got their unrealistic transfer target with their unrealistic money..and ruined the transfer market for everybody else.
Manchester United are the perfect example of the negative impact of money on a football club. When a club like Man United, with their ongoing struggles and lack of Champions League football, shows interest in a player that they need, the selling teams can easily quote twice the actual market value of the player. And because Man United are still a very rich club, and they have the resources to pay these inflated amounts, they have no choice but to do so. United are no more the feared superpower of the English game. They don’t have the allure of Real Madrid and the Barcelona. So they have to splash the cash to attract the big talents. They have to be the highest bidder, offer the highest wages, and even throw in a little something for the annoying agents that want “the best” for their client. It’s a tricky situation for the club. One may even go as far as calling them desperate.
They’ve spent absurd amounts on top talents like Angel di Maria, Alexis Sanchez who, quite frankly, didn’t look like they wanted to be there. This led to disrupted dressing rooms and disrupted wage structures. And the result is a team that is struggling to be anywhere near the top-4 of the Premier League.
Its fair in such cases to say money may well be ruining football, but in some cases, the blame lies with the clubs themselves. Players and their agents will always be considered greedy. Sponsorship will continue and probably grow. More clubs will go out of existence. Sooner or later, as with any market driven by money, the walls may come crashing down.
Football could be a victim of its own success and popularity.
However, while football continues to be the most popular sport on the planet, there will always be a market for it. And where there is a global market for something, there will always be money. For the forseeable future, money in football is here to stay.